Joel Osteen offers no hope for Detroit

Nicholas G. Hahn III
The Detroit News

It’s no secret Detroit has had a rough go of it lately. Almost 40 percent of Detroiters live in poverty, and the Motor City’s unemployment rate reached a high of nearly 25 percent in 2010. Things have since gotten better for Detroit's work force, but there are still far too many unemployed.

But the city’s poor need jobs, not televangelists.

The Houston megachurch minister who pastors a nondenominational church of 50,000-plus members, Joel Osteen, will visit Comerica Park this week for a “Night of Hope.” Osteen told reporters last month that the event will “try to lift people’s spirits, let them know that God’s got them in the palm of his hand, and that good days are up ahead, and come out of these times stronger than before.”

It’s not clear whether Osteen’s brand of preaching gives a lift to anyone but himself.

The Lakewood Church pastor pushes a veneered version of what’s known as the prosperity gospel. It’s a heretical notion that favor with God is contingent upon material wealth. It seems like something entirely contra-Biblical, but Osteen and his co-religionists say otherwise.

The parable of the talents is famous, and it has some televangelists to thank for it. It goes like this: A master gave some money to three of his servants. Two of them invested and grew the funds; one buried the money out of fear of losing it. “As for this worthless slave,” the master said, “throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

Send in the prosperity preachers. God wants you to be rich or else, they say.

What they don’t tell you is, well, the pulpit calls first dibs on the cash. Joel Osteen told the Huffington Post that he doesn’t like to be called a “prosperity preacher.” But he hasn’t always been so bashful.

“God wants us to prosper financially, to have plenty of money, to fulfill the destiny He has laid out for us,” the smiling pastor wrote in 2005.

If Detroit follows that line of prayer, the poor will stay poor while pastors like Osteen get rich.

Twitter: @NGHahn3